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Pope Francis talks with Palestinian President Abbas

Pope Francis receives Mahmoud Abbas in 2018


John Burger - published on 11/03/23

As tensions grow in Israel-Hamas war, Pontiff and Mideast leader express concern for civilians in Gaza and West Bank.

As tensions continue to mount in the Middle East, with threats of escalation in Israel’s war against Hamas, Pope Francis spoke with Palestinian President Mahmound Abbas on Thursday. 

According to the headline of a Vatican News article, it was the Pope who called Abbas. 

Vatican News quoted the Palestinian news agency Wafa as saying Abbas expressed his appreciation for Francis’ efforts in supporting peace-building in the region.

“Abbas then stressed the vital importance of the Vatican continuing its efforts to ensure an immediate ceasefire, stressing the need to spare civilians the horrors of war,” the report said. 

Abbas [seen in file photo above meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2018] also spoke of the urgency of establishing permanent humanitarian corridors for the delivery of medical and food supplies and the provision of water and electricity to Gaza.

During the call, Abbas also urged an end to violence that some Jewish settlers have conducted against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on a surge in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. “Settler attacks have increased to an average of seven attacks a day compared with three a day before October 7, according to the United Nations,” the Journal said. “Israeli troops and armed settlers have killed at least 123 Palestinians.”

Continuing calls for ceasefire

Vatican News noted that Francis is continuing to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. He is also urging that the hostages the Palestinian organization captured on October 7 be freed, and for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is also chairman of the Fatah political party, which has been in conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. According to the Washington Institute, Hamas defeated Fatah in a 2006 election, but because it refused to accept the conditions of the Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States) for recognition — renouncing violence, accepting the Oslo agreements, and recognizing Israel — Washington and most European countries refused to deal with Hamas or provide it assistance. 

“Then, in June 2007, Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority and Fatah in a military coup, seizing Gaza’s governing institutions and causing Israel to close border crossings, as well as air and sea access to the strip,” the think tank said.

The Pope, Vatican News said, also has held telephone conversations recently with US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during which he indicated the need to find paths to peace and discussed his hope of achieving a two-state solution with a special status for Jerusalem.

Francis is in daily contact with the Latin Catholic Parish of the Holy Family in Gaza, speaking with the pastor, Fr. Gabriel Romanelli, who has been stuck in Bethlehem since the beginning of armed hostilities; the assistant pastor, Fr. Youssef Asaad; and Sr. Nabila Saleh of the Sisters of the Rosary in Jerusalem.

Holy LandIsraelPalestinePope FrancisWar
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